To teach, or not to teach?

I regularly contemplate leaving teaching. I don’t know what else I’d do, exactly, but it’s a depressing thought that after 10 years in the job, I don’t know how long I can keep up this pace. There’s pros and cons to teaching as a career choice. It’s always a good idea to weigh them up before decision making, so here goes.

CONS:

  • Constant, and I mean CONSTANT, interference from a Secretary of State who doesn’t know his ass from his elbow, and who has no teaching qualifications of experience. He’s also hell-bent on selling off the state system to his rich mates (or, failing that, just giving them away). He doesn’t believe that poor children have the right to a good education in order to improve social mobility; he wants them kept in their place. I’m pretty sure he’s all for a feudal system. 
  • The ridiculous idea that a teacher in one school is worth more than a teacher in another school. I work in an area of economic and social deprivation. House prices are lower than in other areas, ergo, I should be paid less than teachers in posh areas. The fact is, meeting results benchmarks (which I’ll expand on in a minute) in schools like mine is far harder than in wealthy, white areas. The best teachers are needed there – yet they’ll be paid the least from September.
  • The equally ridiculous idea that the headteacher should be deciding who gets a pay rise, based on very arbitrary evidence. Performance-related pay based on results? Sure, as long as there’s equitable distribution of classes and ability ranges across the staff. 50% of my classes are not results-based. Do I earn less than another teacher because of it, even though I’m working hard? Some staff have a higher teaching load than others. Do I earn my pay based on how many hours/week I teach, despite the fact that I have no say over this whatsoever? How do you ensure equitable treatment of staff when a certain person in charge has a, shall we say, personal relationship with another member of staff? Do I earn less because I don’t have that type of relationship?
  • Results benchmarks. Where to begin… A school which caters to the very wealthy, has class sizes of about 8 students. Statistically these students come into the school with attainment levels that my students can only dream of. They have so much personal attention that they excel. My school, on the other hand, has class sizes of 30. They come into the school with very low attainment levels. We make outstanding progress with those students, but that doesn’t count. Our results will likely fall below the floor target this year, when our CVA is, year on year, around 1020-1025. Who cares about the progress when we don’t meet the floor target? Who cares about the hard work that they do, day after day, week after week, if it doesn’t add up to an arbitrary number that, in reality, can not be compared to other schools? Oh that’s right, we do – but we’ll still be considered a failure.
  • The constant slamming of teachers in the media. When was the last time you saw something in the press about teachers doing something right? No, really? Think about results day: if the results are good, it’s because the exams are too easy; poor results equal poor teachers. We’re workshy slackers. We’re paedophiles. We simply don’t live in the real world. We demand so much even though we are already paid too much, take holidays too often and for too long, and end up with gold-plated pensions. We stand up for our rights and by doing so we’re failing our students.
  • Lack of funding for schools. By this, I of course mean LEA schools, because we all know there’s money taken from them to give to privatised academies (albeit not as much as they thought). I teach in a crumbling school with a huge lack of resources and falling rolls. The falling rolls is hard to avoid – students are opting for the shiny new academy up the road, which – wait for it – is educationally the same as our school. They achieve the same results, year on year. But how do you compete with a school that spent £5 million on a swimming pool, when we’re using 10 year old computers?
  • The excessive workload. I plan and deliver 24 lessons per week. That generates an awful lot of marking when I am required to prove students make progress every lesson, and then there is the required three pieces of evidence per student every six weeks. On top of that I have a Teaching and Learning Responsibility, which I love, but which also generates about 20-30 hours of work per week. There’s also the extra bits and pieces that I do for my students, such as blogging, which adds a little more to the workload but an awful lot to the learning. Add to that duties and meetings, and I average 60-70 hours per week. Keep that in mind the next time you call teachers workshy!

PROS:

  • I adore working with teenagers.

Conclusion?

Keep teaching.

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